Farewell to Leftlion Magazine

The farewell is mine, as I have stepped down from my role as poetry editor at LeftLion Magazine after eight years. It was time (I am in the third year of my PhD) and I’m sure that the new poetry editor, Chris McLoughlin, will do a fantastic job of promoting the brilliant poetry scene in Nottingham. I’d like to thank editor Bridie Squires and all the Leftlion team for their support and friendship.

Here are a few of the interviews I did with national and local authors in 2018, published in Leftlion Magazine and LeftLion online (WriteLion):

Nancy Campbell (Canal Poet Laureate), May 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/may/canal-laureate-nancy-campbell/

Ioney Smallhorne (When We Speak: An Anthology of Black Writing), July 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/july/when-we-speak-poetry-anthology/

Miggy Angel, September 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/september/miggy-angel-extreme-violets/

Lytisha Tunbridge, October 2018: https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/october/poetry-lytisha-tunbridge-interview-nottingham/

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Travel Talks Leicester: Exploring Orkney’s Literary and Coastal Heritage, 30 Nov 2018

img_4828When my friend (the intrepid Cornish travel writer!) Tim Hannigan suggested I give a presentation at Leicester Travel Talks, I was a little bit nervous! Were they looking for tales of rugged adventure or glamour in far flung places? In fact, the monthly event covers a diverse range of travel-related topics and ‘is open to anyone with an interest in the world we live in who wants to learn more about it by sharing the experiences of another traveller – the speaker’. Following my second research visit to Orkney (and after attending Tim’s talk on Cornwall, given earlier in the year), I pitched a talk on ‘Exploring Orkney’s Cultural and Literary Heritage’ to organiser Tricia Lessells, linking literary works, traditional stories and geographic places framed within my personal travelogue. On 30th November, I made my way to Leicester clutching my Powerpoint presentation on a USB memory stick. With a turnout of around 35 people from all walks of life, the atmosphere was welcoming, friendly and relaxed and the morning flew by. People seemed really interested in the subject and we enjoyed a lively Q&A/discussion afterwards.

Orkney has a rich cultural and literary heritage and I hope my talk encourages people not only to visit and/or discover more about the islands, but also to check out some of the writers we discussed for themselves, including Amy Liptrot (The Outrun) and Duncan Mclean who publishes (through Abersee Press) fiercely contemporary anthologies of poems and prose by Orcadian writers ‘utilizing the traditional Orcadian tongue to engage with modern Orcadian concerns.’ Orkney’s literary tradition includes works by George Mackay Brown, Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater, Christina M. Costie, Walter Traill Dennison, and more. Top of my list (as well as Liptrot and Abersee Press) is wonderful storyteller and writer Tom Muir, who you can hear telling the story of ‘Assipattle and the The Mester Stoorworm’ here, and the fascinating 13th Century (Norse) Orkneyinga Saga. My talk was delivered from the point of view of an outsider to Orkney, but I felt it was a real privilege to visit such an interesting place and wanted to share the experience as widely as possible.

Tricia has kindly invited me back to give a talk on 12 April 2019: Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories – The Intriguing Island of La Gomera (Canary Islands) and From Tito to Tourism: Komiža – 
The Croatian town where people really burn their boats! on 20th Sept 2019. The Travel Talks programme takes place on Friday mornings from mid-September to May at the Satta Hashem Hall, Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir Street, LE1 6HL. 10:15am – 12 noon (Price per session £4:50). You can check out the  online diary and website here.

Travel Talks Orkney Poster 18

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ASLE-UKI Conference Orkney 2018: ‘A Place On the Edge’

img_4851I attended the 2018 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (UK & Ireland)/ASLE-UKI Postgraduate Conference ‘A Place on the Edge’, between 5-7thSeptember 2018 to give a paper, ‘Give and Take: Coastal Change and Archaeology in Contemporary British Poetry’. The event was part of the Orkney International Science Festival 2018.  My paper was presented on the beach below Skara Brae, during an organised group walk to Skaill. I also met with Dr Scott Timpany from University of Islands and Highlands to visit the archaeological dig he is leading at the Bay of Ireland.

Attending the Postgraduate conference enabled me to meet and network with other PhD students and ECRs with research interests in environmental literature. A number of presentations focused on poetry, archipelagic theory, blue ecology, and/or the Anthropocene, and there was considerable discussion around shoreline environments and cross-disciplinary working – for example, Alec Finlay and Laura Watt’s work linking renewable energy and poetry – which was highly relevant to my own research. The conference provided a platform to share my research with a new and wider audience outside of the Midlands and a chance to build on my professional development as a researcher. My paper, ‘Give and Take: Coastal Change and Archaeology in Contemporary British Poetry’, included a reading and contextualisation of some of my PhD poems and took place on the beach during a field trip from Yesnaby to Skaill on Thursday 6th September. As such, the work was presented in a location that corresponded with the archaeological imagery in my poems. People seemed genuinely interested in my research project. This was the first paper I have given at a conference and I gained valuable feedback afterwards, which will help me to develop the project. The conference shared events with the Orkney Science Festival programme, exchanging dialogues across disciplinary lines. I joined archaeologists Dr Scott Timpany and Dr Michelle Farrell on a site visit to the Bay of Ireland, where rising tides and coastal processes have revealed 5,000-year-old tree roots. Present-day Orkney is virtually treeless, so the finds indicate the level of change over 7,000 years. Their work on Orkney’s submerged landscapes corresponds with my critical writing on archaeological imagery in poetry and my developing collection of poems for the PhD, offering an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration.  I also took the opportunity to visit the exhibition of finds from Skara Brae on display in Stromness Museum, which will inform the poem sequence that I am writing, meet with publisher Duncan McLean who is leading a literary project promoting Orcadian writing, and travel to St Margaret’s Hope to see the Churchill barriers, which are a series of causeways constructed during WW2 to protect the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow. Orkney is a wonderful place to visit and worth the ‘bumpy’ flight from Glasgow airport. I hope that I can return there in the future.

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‘The Poacher’ published in Under The Radar

‘The Poacher’ was published in Under The Radar Summer Issue 21 (2018) by Nine Arches Press.  The poem was written during my residency with Place, Space and Urban Design (SPUD) at NT Mottisfont in Hampshire and inspired by Neil Swift’s anecdotes about his work as Mottisfont’s River Keeper. His role includes maintaining and managing four ‘beats’ of prime chalk stream fly fishing on the River Test.

THE POACHER
Aly Stoneman

Even if you haven’t seen the River Keeper,
I can assure you he’s seen you, half-vaulting
half-falling over the estate fence, has tracked
the rip and drag of your bike through long grass,
the detonations of your foot-falls rippling down-
stream; has scented your last-orders breath
and noted tell-tale patches of trampled fringe.
It will seem to you that casting bait conjures
the River Keeper from ranunculus and sedge,
looming over your shoulder; and as you plunge
and slip along the bank, head down gasping
for breath, you will wonder if he watched you
shirtless with your mate’s girlfriend last Saturday
along the river’s edge – and what happened next.

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Poem for Green’s Windmill Trust: EMHA 2017

Green's Mill (Photo by AS)

The following poem was commissioned to celebrate Green’s Mill and Science Centre winning ‘Heart of the Community’ for the East Midlands Heritage Awards 2017 and is published on their website:

GREEN’S MILL
Aly Stoneman

In Green’s Mill garden
a terrier chases a ball
among fallen apples;
notes of balm and sage
sing out from turned soil
and plans are laid
for spring planting.

We are willing
affirm the windmill’s sails;
inside the brick tower
machinery rumbles,
soft flour permeating air,
dusting every surface
as it did two centuries ago
before derelict years
as Nottingham grew,
houses and factories
advancing over farmland.

Yet Green’s Mill remains
a place for milling and baking,
a space to draw breath,
sow seeds, spark ideas –
the core of Sneinton.

We are willing 
white sails turn again;
a kettle whistles ready
inside the garden shed
and wheat whispers
through a rising breeze
plant to grain to bread.

Thoughts on the commission…
How amazing to see a working 19thcentury windmill in the centre of Nottingham! I walked past it every day when I lived in Sneinton, never imagining that ten years later I would be invited to create a short poem celebrating Green’s Mill and Science Centre winning ‘Heart of the Community’ for the East Midlands Heritage Awards.

One Friday in early October, I visited the mill incognito to do some research and was given a tour by volunteer gardeners – including Mavis and her terrier. They explained how the Mill garden has been transformed from a derelict allotment to a community space with a pizza oven, shed and wooden Victorian-style greenhouse.

My poem grew from a line in Green’s Windmill Trust’s application, which spoke of demonstrating ‘the complete cycle of growing grains and milling through to baking’. I think it’s really important to understand where our food comes from, and at the mill people can learn about the whole process – plant to grain to bread – and perhaps buy a bag of organic flour, stoneground in the mill using traditional techniques.

The idea of the cyclical nature of the site linked the mill and garden activities for me: the turning of the seasons and the windmill’s sails. It also connected with the renovation of the Mill as a fantastic community resource, following its decline after 1860 and long period of disuse and dereliction. I was struck by this story of renewal and regeneration.

LeftLion’s review of the EMHA 2017 Awards event on 9th November 2017

Green's Mill Garden (photo: AS)

 

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Enchanted Water

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This weekend, I’m taking part in Enchanted Water, along with new canal poet laureate Nancy Campbell and local poet Leanne Moden. On Nottingham Light Night (Friday 23 Feb) and over the weekend, visitors will be able to join us on a narrowboat to hear stories and poems inspired by canals and rivers, and enjoy a short ride along a stretch of the Nottingham canal.  The session will also be a chance to think about the heritage of the canal, its present use and what the future holds.

Nancy and Leanne are reading on Friday evening and on Saturday Nancy is also reading at 11am & 12noon. I’m doing Saturday 11.30am & 12.30pm and Sunday 11am/11.45am/12.30pm. The sessions will last about 30mins, starting from Nottingham Canal Basin by the Magistrates Court off Carrington Street. Friday should be really exciting, as Enchanted Water aims to transform the look and feel of the canal, using art installations, light and water. Tickets for all events must be booked in advance.

Enchanted Water is a collaboration between Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University, Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre and Canal & River Trust.

Enchanted Water

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Nottingham For Nature campaign with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

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I’ve really enjoyed working with Nottingham Wildlife Trust on their creative campaign ‘Nottingham For Nature’ . The campaign hits the streets on 16 January 2018. I’ve been working with the Keeping It Wild youth group to develop their initial ideas, creating twelve new ‘word mash’ definitions and short poems for the poster and billboard campaign promoting wildlife in the city.

IMG_3657On Friday 12th January, I met with six members of the Nottingham Hindu Youth Group ‘Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh’ at The Nottingham Emmanuel School in West Bridgford. We discussed the project and the importance of nature in Hindu culture, developing ideas that will be included in the Nottingham For Nature manifesto. The manifesto will launch at the youth event taking place at Nottingham Council House on 25th January.

#nottinghamfornature

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